by Tony Attwood
Four things are going to be apparent in the team next season:
First, a continuation of the five at the back that was so extraordinarily effective last season, although with the option of suddenly changing, if that seems a good idea.
Second, three creative forwards at the front.
Third the Xhaka – Ramsey axis in between.
Fourth, a much extended role for the backup squad including the under 21s.
- Part One: The Five At the Back
This represented an incredible change in fortune at the end of last season with a run of matches that turned everything around. I know I’ve published this set of results before, but it is quite clear that most of the newspaper industry and their bloggettas were not looking, as they are still talking about how the whole team needs rebuilding…
|17 Apr 2017||Middlesbrough v Arsenal||W||1-2||Premier League|
|23 Apr 2017||Arsenal v Manchester City||W||2-1||FA Cup|
|26 Apr 2017||Arsenal v Leicester City||W||1-0||Premier League|
|30 Apr 2017||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||L||2-0||Premier League|
|07 May 2017||Arsenal v Manchester United||W||2-0||Premier League|
|10 May 2017||Southampton v Arsenal||W||0-2||Premier League|
|13 May 2017||Stoke City v Arsenal||W||1-4||Premier League|
|16 May 2017||Arsenal v Sunderland||W||2-0||Premier League|
|21 May 2017||Arsenal v Everton||W||3-1||Premier League|
|27 May 2017||Arsenal v Chelsea||W||2-1||FA Cup|
For the wing backs we have Saed Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal on the left and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin on the right.
In the centre we can have Holding, Koscielny, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Gabriel and Elneny.
Monreal can also move into centre-back and Oxlade-Chamberlain can play in midfield.
That set of players should mean we have enough to cover for injuries and suspensions that stop anyone playing a match, and also injuries and knocks sustained during a game.
- Part Two: The Forward Line
At the other end the question mark surrounds Giroud, but Mr Wenger has said: “We extended his contract last season. Our resolution is clear because we extended his contract. He’s a great value to the squad.”
That means we have Alexis, Giroud, Lacazette, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck, and indeed once again Oxlade-Chamberlain. Choose the three you want.
- Part Three: the midfield
We’ve got five at the back, three at the front, and one in goal, which means two more to find, and the obvious pairing is Xhaka and Ramsey. It seems the stories about Santi not coming back were just stories and so he will be pushing for one of those two places as well.
Jeff Reine Adelaide is now classified by the club as a midfielder, Jack Wilshere is still on the books, and Coquelin is still there. And hang on a minute, we’ve not found a place for Ozil.
What that in turn suggests is that Ozil might be taking up one of the three forward positions, sometimes on the left wing sometimes dropping behind a front two in order to feed the balls through between the Xhaka-Ramsey combination and the front two.
In all, we have got a lot of players to fit in. Even with the sad news of Joel Campbell’s injury, we’re not in any way short of players of quality.
- Part Four: The Under 21s, or maybe under 23s.
There are a number of youngsters who have done very well indeed so far in the pre-season, plus a number of more senior players who are going to be reduced to time on the bench. Elneny, Wilshere, Welbeck, Theo, Coquelin, Gabriel … they might be needed if injuries demand, but the rest of the time…
And then Maitland Niles, Bielik, Bramall, Willock, Nelson, Nketiah – not to mention the second and third choice keepers. They all need time playing.
The group stage of the Europa has groups of four teams exactly as the Champs League does, giving each team six games, and then with teams dropping out of the Champs League there are 32 teams left making a total of another five possible games. That is 11 games to play for the teams that make it to the final.
In the League Cup we have potentially another five games.
Now of course anything can happen, and we could get knocked out early on in either or both competition, but potentially we have 16 games to give experience to some of the youngsters, combined with some older hands who are not getting that many league games. Which should be an encouragement for them, and indeed for others coming through.
And if that were not enough, although we treat the FA Cup more seriously, there can be places for youngsters there – depending on the draw.
One good thing in all this – there is no early Champs League knock out game to play, so everyone will have time to settle down.
I think this is going to give a lot of encouragement to youngsters to stay with the Arsenal and not go seeking their fortunes elsewhere.